We’ve had a crush on the house-smoked meats and chewy pretzels at Easy Tiger for ages, and the blue plate-inspired, high-end comfort food at 24 Diner is one of our favorite spots in town for breakfast or lunch. When we stumbled into Arro for a visit with Chef Drew Curran on a cold, blustery afternoon last week, though, our fancy turned to love. The space itself is beautiful — somehow managing to be both open and intimate, with warm woods, dim lights, and a cozy patina — but it was the food that ultimately seduced us. Rustic French bistro fare, done with confidence and grace, was exactly what we wanted on such a chilly gray evening…
*photography by Thomas Winslow
In short, I focus on recipe, menu, and staff development in order to bring elevated hospitality to Austin. From menu maintenance to encouraging our employees, I act as a leader of a team that feeds thousands of Austinites a day!
A meal you will never forget:
A four-hour lunch at Bouley in New York experienced by my partners and our wives in anticipation of the opening of Arro. Sharing wine and food with the people I love is always memorable, but doing so in the dining room of Bouley — with the extreme attention to detail they give to their food and service — was a meal I’ll never forget.
Favorite quickly assembled appetizer:
My go-to is a meat-and-cheese board. Stop by Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and pick out three or four cheeses, some cured pig from La Quercia, a baguette, some nuts and olives, and you have a great spread to start any meal.
Favorite food and drink pairing:
French fries and Champagne.
What does the table look like when you host a dinner party?
Call me old school, but we have a lot of placemats, tablecloths, cloth napkins, crystal wine glasses and decanters. This doesn’t make a meal at my house stuffy or pretentious, but it honors the food and the guest. I like to make a night of it. In the words of my lovely bride, “We start early with champagne and go late with bourbon!”
If you could pass on one trick or technique to a newbie cook, what would it be?
Cook hot! Grills should be preheated so you get a true sear on your steaks. Indoors, use a preheated cast-iron pan to sear meats. Sauté pans should be very hot so your vegetables truly “jump” off the pan when you add them to the skillet. Too often, the home cook doesn’t cook with enough heat. 350 isn’t the only temperature on your oven dial!
The one cooking tool you can’t live without:
A sharp knife. There is absolutely no substitute!
Your favorite ingredient:
I use a lot of dry sherry. From opening mussels to roasting mushrooms, I always have a bottle kicking around.
Your favorite winter recipe:
The first cold front of the year means spaghetti and meatballs at my house. As soon as that crisp breeze blows through town, you will find me at the butcher buying pork, veal and beef to roll up some meatballs, making beautiful red gravy to coat some spaghetti and popping a bottle of Italy’s finest!
What is “comfort food” to you?
Pizza on the couch with my wife.
Your favorite cookbook:
“The Elements of Taste” by Gray Kunz
Kitchen Inspiration: Beef Bourguignon
Chef Drew’s classic oh-so-French pot roast had us craving the dish chez nous — if you want to give it a try, you can’t go wrong with Julia Child’s recipe from “The French Chef.”
What are you cooking this week?
Redfish. I just got back from the Laguna Madre where we chased schools of redfish and came home with a limit of thick fillets. I have cooked some on the half shell and served others over lemon risotto with crawfish cream. To me, there is nothing better than catching fish and then cooking it!
See more of Elizabeth’s work at Making Groceries.
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